By Carla Pampe, Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
/ Published April 08, 2014
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- Air Force Global Strike Command's Force Improvement Program team wrapped up their visits to the command's missile wings last month, where they were tasked with identifying challenges associated with performing missile duties and working with Airmen to propose solutions.
"We are using this ... as an opportunity to make significant and important improvements across the enterprise," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, the commander of AFGSC. "The Force Improvement Program's purpose is to create an aggressive, action-oriented, field-influenced program with the goal of making substantial and lasting changes to the ICBM mission."
During their visits, the teams conducted 1,800 field surveys, leadership and family surveys, and personally interviewed 835 Airmen across the three ICBM bases.
"AFGSC and their analysis team of scientists, along with behavioral experts and an outside team from the Navy and Executive Leadership Group, created a question list that best dug at the issues of morale, leadership, workplace environment and job satisfaction," said Col. Michael Tichenor, the AFGSC Task Force 204 director and FIP team leader.
By using a combination of expert teams assembled from the ICBM bases, the diverse 69-person functional cultural working group was composed of operations, maintenance, security forces, mission support group and helicopter operations members, as well as peers from outside the ICBM community, including Navy submariners and AFGSC bomber bases.
"We felt that bringing in peers from both in and outside of the missile community would bring a fresh perspective," said Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, the 20th Air Force commander. "We wanted every Airman's voice to be heard. The teams didn't just focus on the missile operators, but interviewed people from all spectrums of the missile community to ensure they had input in this process."
Master Sgt. Shizuka Smith, the 341st Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, was one of those Airmen interviewed at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.
"I've been here at Malmstrom AFB for seven years and I've never seen something like this before," Smith said. "I think it's been great to have one-on-one interview sessions, because this gives Airmen a chance to speak up when they otherwise wouldn't."
"I think this is really different than anything the Air Force has done before," said Capt. Daniel Bradfield, the 5th Civil Engineer Squadron readiness and emergency management flight commander and FIP mission support function team lead at F.E. Warren Air Force Base. " ... What hasn't ever really been done is (a collection of) unfiltered feedback from troops on the ground -- from NCOs, senior NCOs and young officers -- about what some of their concerns are and some of the actions that maybe we should be taking.
"We interviewed our peers and took what we gathered straight to Gen.Wilson," he added. "There's no filter; there's no in-between step. We briefed him directly on our findings."
After completing their base visits, the FIP team met at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., to assess the stacks of findings and recommendations from the field. Their result: a list of field-generated concerns and possible fixes across all five of the teams' functional areas. Each of the peer-led teams briefed their findings and recommendations to Wilson and Weinstein on March 3. The two commanders then spent the next weekend personally reviewing each of the near 350 recommendations and making decisions on which field recommendations to implement.
When asked about the decision to personally review and discuss each and every recommendation, Wilson said, "These field recommendations were thoughtful, direct, and on-target; Gen. Weinstein and I took each of them seriously."
When asked how many of the Airmen's ideas got approved, Weinstein said of the near 350 recommendations, "You can literally count on two hands how many we said 'no' to; not surprising, our Airmen's observations and recommendations just made sense."
Many of the major recommendations and observations were presented to the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force, who provided feedback on the FIP recommendations to the secretary of defense.
New FIP offices in 20th Air Force and at the AFGSC headquarters are busy cataloguing the many commanders' decisions stemming from the FIP recommendations and assigning the right people to work the issues.
"We set up a team of full-time headquarters staff to assign, track, and move out on these ideas and decisions," said Maj. Gen. Rob Rego, the AFGSC vice commander. "The (numbered Air Force) and MAJCOM commanders are demanding the team move quickly on as much as we can."
And movement is happening, Rego said.
"We've already seen Headquarters Air Force action on some of our Airmen's recommendations to include a $19 million commitment for money this year to deliver on some of our Airmen's most pressing needs identified during the FIP, to include security forces equipment, (launch control center) maintenance, missile maintenance parts and equipment, and much more," he said.
Furthermore, Weinstein has signed out several policy directives capturing many of the recommendations asked for by his Airmen.
One of the next big steps for FIP implementation is the stand-up of seven Tiger Teams that will be visiting the bases April 7. These teams' charters are to figure out how to implement some of the biggest FIP recommendations.
The Tiger Teams will construct implementation plans in seven key areas based on the decisions arising from the FIP. These areas are helicopter reorganization, ICBM maintenance, nuclear duty incentives, creating a security forces "model defender," ICBM training and evaluation, ICBM alternative crew tours and Personnel Reliability Program overhaul. The Tiger Teams will travel to all the missile wing bases over the next two weeks and will present their plans to the senior working group in late April.
"It is critical to understand that these ideas will not go away," Wilson said. "I am committed to seeing them through and making real change."
Wilson added that AFGSC leaders at every level will provide feedback to the field on their recommendations, and regular updates will be provided on force improvement program progress.
"We're ready to act and the Force Improvement Program is an opportunity to foster positive change at the units, at the Wings and in Air Force Global Strike Command," Wilson said.
(Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)